The first thing you should ask yourself is, does my dude prefer receiving tangible things, or does he prefer receiving “experiences”? Does he have specific talismans that he regularly shows off or admires? Or does he always bring up tales of old vacations, movies, times with friends, or sporting events? This could help give you a rough idea, or you could even just ask him outright. Do you like gifts that you open and save or use, or do you like gifts and parties that result in fun experiences. This may be something he’s never explicitly thought about, but with a little time he should be able to get you an answer.
Once you have this knowledge you’re about 1/3 of the way there. It at least points you in the right direction of where to start. If he’s into objects, try looking for online stores that carry that specific type of product, or in other words, not a general merchandiser like Amazon. You can use stores like that later, if they happen to carry the same stuff, but look at the specialty stores first to determine the brands and products that are probably more respected in that field.
Be careful, however, on just diving in and buying “the direct thing” he’s interested in. For example, let’s say he’s really into watches. I wouldn’t risk buying an actual watch, unless he’s specifically told you a watch he’s into. He could have very peculiar tastes that he can’t even articulate himself, but he simply knows “what he wants/doesn’t want when he sees it”; or, there may be a watch that is super popular to the general public, but is super cliche and cheesy to those “in-the-know”. Try instead, to find something tangentially related, but isn’t the thing itself. For example, if he’s really into the manual watches (ones that don’t run on batteries), maybe look into watch turners instead of a buying new manual watch. Do some digging online, or ask around at a local specialty story for a quality one. If he’s really into cigars, don’t buy him a bunch of cigars, instead, look into a fancy cutter, lighter or humidor. If you stay around the edges of the product category, you have a higher likelihood of buying auxiliary gear that he secretly wants, but he simply can’t justify purchasing himself. You are taking that anxiety off his hands by giving it to him, making it a double whammy of gift greatness. He gets something he likes, and he no longer has to stress about constantly talking himself out of it.
Finally, the guy who prefers receiving “experiences” as gifts. On the brightside, you probably have the easier of the two types to satisfy in this case, and even get to enjoy the gift yourself in many situations. However, these type of gifts also tend to be much pricier. Another note on this type of dude is that they ironically like gift cards more than the other type…they often view it as receiving their own personally directed shopping “experience” so to speak. They can more freely purchase things that they’d be hesitant to with “their own money.”
For this gift receiver, you could simply get a flight, get a rental car, or hell, even drive your own car to somewhere “else”. Whether that means to a different city or a different part of your current city. Get a hotel, go to new restaurants, go to sporting events, etc. Don’t think your boyfriend would like that? Try enrolling him in a class around an existing hobby, or something he’s mentioned being interested in from afar — for example, a woodworking class, photography lesson, guitar lesson, etc. Still not hitting? Try a sporting event, concert, or even a play. Just Google “events in city ‘x’” and get to getting creative. Maybe a mystery themed dinner event, or an escape room. Lastly, this cohort would likely be the more receptive of the two in enjoying a surprise party. So you might just get friends and family together secretly, and then get him a little token tangible gift to put a cherry on top of the fun experience cake. Either way the options abound here, and as long as the ideas are new and creative each year, he’ll enjoy the novelty of it.
Hopefully these tips helped! If you need more specifics on actual gift ideas, please check out our gift idea generator, or our blog where we spotlight specific boyfriend/husband profiles (ex: first time dad, entrepreneurial, jiu jitsu lover, etc.) You can also sign up below and we will send you annual advance notice of upcoming birthdays including gift ideas.